“Too Much Wahala in This Country” by Abdulbaseet Yusuff

Abdulbaseet Yusuff


Wahala if you are a bystander, watching
the protest from afar; hands tucked in pockets

Wahala if a stray bullet finds a home in
your bones, or your liver

Wahala if you come to lend bass to protest
chants, & hired hoodlums turn it to bedlam

Wahala if you drive there with your Camry
& drive home with a cracked windshield

Wahala if you drive your car through a police
checkpoint at night. Wahala if the road is empty

Wahala if you are the young man behind
the wheels. Wahala if your head isn’t shaven

Wahala if you are nearby when a cop shoots
another cop. Wahala if they wash the blood

off their hands & bath you in it. Wahala if
there is no video evidence to towel you clean

Wahala if you don’t know bigwig lawmakers to
nick you from the jaws of torture

Wahala if police swear they didn’t nab you
Wahala if they actually did nab you & are lying

Wahala if you are already stewing in their belly,
writhing like upset intestines amongst others

in a dingy cell. Wahala if you are unfamiliar with
the smell of conc. piss and shit.

Wahala for your corpse that will never be buried
Wahala for the mother that won’t kiss your cold cheek

Wahala for the river that will eat you
Wahala here, wahala there. Wahala everywhere

But no wahala for the cop whose forefinger twitched
on the trigger like an apoplectic

Wahala for government running out of tricks;
for thinking they can SWAT at us like flies,

Wahala that they do not know their harsh blowings
have stirred wisps of smoke where slumbering

tinder nest once lay. Wahala that they do not
realize they are making dragons out of us

Note: Wahala is Nigerian pidgin for “trouble.”

from Poets Respond
October 18, 2020


Abdulbaseet Yusuff: “At the time of writing, it is the 8th day of the #EndSARS and #EndPoliceBrutality protests in Nigeria. Youth have filled the streets, slept in front of government houses, to protest against extrajudicial killings, police profiling based on appearance, and extortion at police checkpoints. Since the start of the protest, about ten people have been killed by the police—some protesters and some bystanders watching events unfold. The government has disbanded the SARS unit of the police, and have replaced them with a new unit called SWAT. But citizens don’t want to have any of that. They want to see real reform.” (web)

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